The Digitization of Retail – 4 Takeaways from eTail Canada

Posted by John Hooper

As the premiere ecommerce event for Canadian retailers, eTail Canada is the one-stop shop for ecommerce and multi-channel executives—an  event where attendees learn, get inspired, and find solutions for their business. HGS Canada’s John Hooper recently attended the event and shared his key learnings and takeaways.

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1. What were some of the most popular topics discussed at the event?

Mobile commerce and app development (both mobile and native) were definitely hot topics at the event. Mobile marketing has traditionally been a challenge due to the lack of standardization across devices and platforms, although that’s now changing. As smartphone screens become larger and better and payment systems more secure, mobile transactions, particularly from smartphones, will become more and more ubiquitous. In fact, in Japan, 100% of mobile transactions now come from smartphones. Those North America retailers that were early adopters of mobile apps are now seeing more than 10% of sales coming from this channel.

Retargeting was another important topic of discussion, including cross-device targeting. Whenever a customer or potential customer visits your site, they leave behind breadcrumbs that provide important clues as to what they’re looking to purchase. This information can be used to push either “implied match” items or “exact match” items. For greater personalization purposes, the latter is the more effective way to go.

2. What were some of the challenges that retailers expressed?

With 76% of Canadian households now shopping online, there is a tendency for bricks-and-mortar retailers to think that ecommerce retailers have it all figured out, but online retailers have challenges too. Like bricks-and-mortar retailers, they also struggle with the challenge of how to encourage customers to spend more, increase average order value (AOV), and return to the store faster. Online retailers are addressing these goals by creating a feeling of exclusivity – that customers are getting something from the retailer that they wouldn’t be able to get elsewhere. Hard-bundling of products is one way to do this. For example, a retailer may sell a combination of related or complementary items in a discounted package. This reduces price comparisons, as it becomes more difficult for the consumer to compare the cost of like items.

3. What do you see as the biggest opportunities for retailers?

The paradox is that often the industries facing the biggest challenges also have the most opportunities. Many retailers are still producing flyers but some studies show 80% of customers don’t read them. As Frederick Lecoq, SVP Marketing at FGL Sports highlighted, we need to reinvent the flyer by moving from broadcast to unicast. Personalization is critical. In Lecoq’s words, “The future of retail is connectivity, content, and data.”

4. What were some surprising insights that you gained?

Some interesting insights, from my perspective, were statistics shared on the ways that customers engage with retailers and shop online depending on the time of day. For example 20% of online retail transactions occur on smartphones early in the morning, while the majority of transactions during business hours occur on a PC. In the evening hours, tablets are the device of choice for online transactions. For retailers, this means that cross-device advertising is incredibly important. However, perhaps the more important takeaway is that research and analytics, with a view toward better customer understanding, is the key to providing a better, more relevant, and more personalized customer experience.